NEWS

Greeks all for Europe’s charter, if it favors them

Warm supporters of the embryonic constitution of the European Union though they are, Greeks at the same time strongly oppose any compromise or concessions in order to make it a reality, a Eurobarometer opinion poll has found, somewhat contradictorily. The poll, whose findings were made public in Brussels on February 18, found that ordinary citizens of the EU were clearly in favor of the constitution, but also saw the necessity of their country making some concessions if the enterprise is to be crowned with success. Less enthusiastic Enthusiasm for the European Constitution is somewhat more muted in the 10 EU members-to-be than in the current 15 member states, while the appetite for concessions is also rather reduced. Seventy-eight percent of respondents in current EU member states and 73 percent of respondents in the new members feel a new constitution is essential. Italians head the list with 92 percent, followed by Greeks with 89 percent. Nine percent of Greeks are wholly in favor of adopting the constitution. At the other extreme, only 51 percent of Britons are wholly in favor of the constitution (given the circumstances, this could be considered a high percentage). Almost as ambivalent are the usual suspects, the Swedes, Danes and Finns. On the whole, a broad two-thirds majority, especially in today’s 15 member states, agree that the adoption of a constitution is a prerequisite for the smooth functioning of the EU after enlargement. This view is shared by a majority of respondents in all 25 states, with the exception of Slovakia and Malta. For concessions But the picture is somewhat different as regards concessions that each country will be called upon to make. Two-thirds of citizens (64 percent) in the 15 member states accept these are necessary; only 55 percent of citizens in the 10 new member states do. Greece is in 18th place out of all the 25 member states, with only 51 percent saying they would be willing to make concessions, as opposed to 76 percent of Luxembourg inhabitants, 73 percent of Belgians and 71 percent of the Irish. Even the British, with 52 percent, are slightly ahead of Greece in acknowledging that some concessions might be necessary. Sixty-five percent of Spaniards and 62 percent of Poles accept concessions, despite the inflexible stance officially held until now by Madrid and Warsaw. Among the current member states, only the Finns are even more reluctant than the Greeks to make concessions. They are followed by the future member states, with Estonians able to stomach them the least. However, it is not known if Greece has been asked to make concessions on its views and positions regarding the constitution, especially old ones such as the double majority (majority in the European Parliament plus a majority of member states) to approve decisions. But Greeks’ stance – the decisive «yes» to the constitution accompanied by a «no» to facilitating its adoption – can be explained by the fact that more than all other Europeans, Greeks say they are uninformed about the exact content of the text. Thus 77 percent of Greeks declare themselves more or less ignorant of the text of the constitution (paradoxically, in the previous Eurobarometer poll, 62 percent stated that the text needed radical change) while 60 percent stated they preferred to be informed via television or radio, and 40 percent through the press. ‘Two-speed’ Europe What is startling is that two out of three Europeans, especially in the members-to-be, are not against the creation of a «two-speed Europe,» in which some members bypass the Union mechanisms and develop closer relations and cooperation among themselves than other states are ready (or able) to. Slovenes are positively enthusiastic, followed by Lithuanians, Poles and Cypriots, while the Spanish are first among the 15 current member states. By contrast, the French and Germans are lukewarm, under 60 percent, though their governments are precisely those that promote the idea of a two-speed Europe. The opinion poll was conducted by telephone between January 15 and 21, a month after the collapse of talks at the intergovernmental summit on the constitution among the 25 European states. A sample of 1,000 people was used in Greece and 20,000 throughout Europe, of which 10,050 lived in the 15 member states.